The French expression of l’enfant terrible describes a successful genius who tends to be offensive and rebellious. Many in the French media would use this expression to describe the attacking talent of Hatem Ben Arfa.
The Daily Mail reported earlier in the week that Claude Puel was thinking of trying to reunite himself with maverick PSG winger Hatem Ben Arfa. Following a magical year with Nice under Leicester boss Claude Puel in season 2015/2016 he was heavily linked with Barcelona before he chose to go to the Paris giants. Ben Arfa has only made 23 appearances for the PSG in over a year and has been unable to compete with the likes of Draxler, Pastore and Di Maria for a starting berth.
When Ben Arfa started his career at Lyon many predicted he would be a great and is one of many French stars like Samir Nasir who have been possibly cursed by “the new Zidane” tag.
15 international caps is a measly return for someone who was expected to be a star especially when you consider that similar talents Valbuena and Gourcuff have earned many more appearances for the French team. Ben Arfa did go to Euro 2012 following a stellar season with Newcastle, however, he then went on to argue with Laurent Blanc during France’s defeat to Sweden in Euro 2012 and this led to Ben Arfa needing to publicly apologise to the World Cup winner.
Similar issues have occurred at club level at PSG with manager Unai Emery frustrated with Ben Arfa’s attitude in training. Emery is not alone in confrontations with the talented winger as Didier Deschamps, Alan Pardew and Steve Bruce all had similar issues.
At Newcastle, Ben Arfa was magical at times. Linking up with Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye his ability to go past defenders and score solo goals gained the admiration of the faithful Geordie fans. When those two players left, Newcastle unravelled and Ben Arfa’s form also declined as so did his relationship with much maligned Alan Pardew.
Pardew seemed to prefer the wasteful Gabriel Obertan to Ben Arfa which to many fans made no sense. Alan Pardew also seemed to make Ben Arfa a scape goat for games where Newcastle lost and blamed the winger’s lack of commitment. Fans were keen to see Ben Arfa in the team but Alan Pardew had made his mind up that he was fed up with Ben Arfa’s argumentative and lax position. Ben Arfa’s abysmal loan spell at Hull where Steve Bruce ran out of patience with him and questioned his desire did vindicate Pardew’s opinion.
Ben Arfa will be hoping to prove his critics in the Premier League wrong and to push for a place in Didier Deschamp’s World Cup squad.
If Leicester do decide to go for him it will be interesting to see if Puel is able to fit Ben Arfa and Mahrez into the same system. Both are not the best at tracking back and both tend to occupy the same positions. Another problem for the French manager is that Demarai Gray is in great form and the arrival of Ben Arfa may stifle the ex-Birmingham winger.
Puel though knows how to get the best out of Ben Arfa and if he can get him firing again Leicester may be able to push for a top ten place. At Leicester he possibly could play in the number 10 role and be the playmaker which tends to maximise his talents. However, many feel Ben Arfa is a ticking timebomb in terms of disciplinary issues and so it is definitely a gamble for the Foxes.